Sept 16 - White House Sets Nation's First Food Waste Reduction Goals

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the United States is adopting a national goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

“The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste,” said Secretary Vilsack. “This announcement will demonstrate America’s leadership on a global level in reducing the amount of food that ends up in our country’s landfills, cutting environmental pollution and promoting innovation.”

Food waste is the most voluminous item sent to landfills. Once buried there, bacteria that thrive in oxygen-deprived environments feed on it and produce significant amounts of methane, a foul-smelling greenhouse gas that is 84 times more effective than carbon at capturing the heat that causes climate change.

From today's USDA news release:

Ongoing federal initiatives are already building momentum for long-term success. In 2013, USDA and EPA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, creating a platform for leaders and organizations across the food chain to share best practices on ways to reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste. By the end of 2014, the U.S. Food Waste Challenge had over 4,000 active participants, well surpassing its initial goal of reaching 1,000 participants by 2020.

In addition to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, USDA has unveiled several food loss reduction initiatives over the past few years, including an app to help consumers safely store food and understand food date labels, new guidance to manufacturers on donating misbranded or sub-spec foods, and research on innovative technologies to make reducing food loss and waste cost effective. USDA will build on these successes with additional initiatives targeting food loss and waste reduction throughout its programs and policies.

In addition, today, USDA is launching a new consumer education campaign through its Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion with information on food loss and waste facts and reduction tips. Moreover, a new section on ChooseMyPlate.gov will educate consumers about reducing food waste to help stretch household budgets.

USDA and EPA will also continue to encourage the private sector—food service companies, institutions, restaurants, grocery stores, and more—to set their own aggressive goals for reducing food loss and waste in the months ahead. Organizations such as the Consumer Goods Forum, which recently approved a new resolution to halve food waste within the operations of its 400 retailer and manufacturers members by 2025, are helping to lead the way.

According to the USDA, there is approximately 133 billion pounds of food loss and waste in the United States annually; as a significant producer of the nation's agriculture, California is responsible for about 30 billion pounds of this waste.

To address the inedible portion of California's food waste, legislation sponsored by Californians Against Waste set to take effect next year will require grocery stores, restaurants and other commercial generators of food waste to provide for its composting or controlled anaerobic digestion. This requirement under AB 1826 (Chesbro) will help California reach it's established goal of reusing, recycling, composting or anaerobically digesting 75 percent of all solid waste that would otherwise be landfilled by 2020.

If signed, bills currently on the desk of Governor Jerry Brown would also help implement food waste reduction strategies and goals. 

Californians Against waste has sponsored AB 199 (Eggman), which would provide a sales tax exemption on composting and recycling equipment, helping build the infrastructure needed to process new organic materials generated under AB 1826. 

Additionally, Assembly Member Susan Eggman has also authored AB 515 to provide a tax break that would encourage agricultural producers to donate food to food banks that would otherwise end up in landfills.

"Let's feed people, not landfills. By reducing wasted food in landfills, we cut harmful methane emissions that fuel climate change, conserve our natural resources, and protect our planet for future generations" EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said today. "Today's announcement presents a major environmental, social and public health opportunity for the U.S., and we're proud to be part of a national effort to reduce the food that goes into landfills."

AB 867 (McCarty) would require local governments to plan for composting like they do for disposal and recycling. AB 1045 (Irwin) would bring together the state's environmental, agriculture and recycling agencies to develop strategies to increase composting.

There is still much work to be done to reform our food system to ensure that less food is wasted and that edible food goes to feed hungry people. Join us as California takes the lead on meeting these targets over the course of the next legislative year, tackling expiration date reform, tax credits for donating food, and funding for food recovery programs!